Object Complements

Definition

Sometimes a verb is not complete with only a direct object, especially when that direct object is a person. More information about the object’s relationship with the verb is required to form a complete thought. This additional information is known as the object complement.
An object complement is a word or group of words that describes, renames, or completes the direct object of the verb; without one, we are left asking what about the state or condition of the direct object as a result of the verb.
An object complement can be a noun or noun phrase; an adjective or adjective phrase; a relative clause (also known as an adjective clause); an infinitive or infinitive phrase; or a gerund or gerund phrase.
(In the examples used in this section, the object complements are in bold while the objects they modify or rename are underlined.)

Nouns and noun phrases

When we use nouns as object complements, they serve to rename or re-identify the object of factitive verbs. For example:
  • “The committee elected him treasurer.”
  • “Mrs. Fields named her late husband the executor of her estate.”
  • “The coach made Timothy team captain.”
  • “The school board appointed her superintendent.”

Adjectives and adjective phrases

Factitive verbs also take adjectives and adjective phrases as their object complements. But whereas a noun that functions as an object complement will rename a direct object, an adjective serves to describe or modify the direct object.
Like all object complements, adjectives must follow the direct object they are describing. If they come before it, they are simply acting as attributive adjectives, which are not necessary to complete the meaning of the sentence.
  • “All he wanted was to make his husband happy.”
  • “The excitement of the day got the kids way too hyper.”
  • “We decided to paint my room bright pink.”
  • “The jury judged the defendant not guilty.”
  • “She deemed him worthy of her love.”

Relative clauses

Relative clauses are dependent clauses that are introduced by relative pronouns. Like adjectives, relative clauses serve to describe the noun that they follow; for this reason, they are often called adjective clauses.
For example:
  • “Do you know someone who can work the photocopier?”
  • “I hate the color that they painted this room.”
  • “I found an apartment that is big enough for both of us.”
  • “He is a friend whose generosity knows no bounds.”

Infinitives and infinitive phrases

An infinitive or infinitive phrase acts as an object complement by describing the intended or desired action of the direct object. For example:
  • “I don’t expect you to approve of my decision.”
  • “She’s forcing me to work through the weekend.”
  • “We need you to make a few more copies.”
  • “Janet’s father wants her to go to Harvard.”
  • “I would like the boss to see these reports.”
  • “He persuaded me to marry him.”
  • “They taught me to work the photocopier.”
We often also use infinitives as object complements in reported speech to express what someone said to or asked of someone else. For example:
  • “He asked me to help him.”
  • “She told me not to answer the phone.”

Gerunds and gerund phrases

Gerunds generally function as object complements by describing what the direct object is or was doing (as opposed to infinitives, which describe an act that has not yet been done).
For example:
  • “We came across him lying in the yard.”
  • “My mother noticed the baby walking by himself.”
  • “I can’t believe the bosses caught you napping.”
  • “We heard their dogs barking at the wind.”
Quiz

1. Which of the following do not function as object complements?





2. Which of the following kinds of verbs requires an object complement?





3. Identify the type of object complement (in bold) in the following sentence:
“They found him unfit to lead the company.”





4. Which of the following sentences uses a gerund phrase as an object complement?





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